Airports

Airports tightening the leash on animals in terminals

Thinking of taking dog your pet or emotional support animal with you on your next flight? Be sure to check the airline -and the airport – rule books on that. As I describe in my ‘At the Airport’ column this month for USA TODAY, airports are following the lead of airlines and making new and more restricted rules for animals in the terminals.  Below is a slightly edited version of that column.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport pet relief area

There were plenty of “Aw, that’s so cute” social media posts last month when Eleanor Rigby, one of two service dog vest-wearing golden retrievers accompanying a passenger to Philadelphia on American Airlines, went into labor and gave birth to eight puppies in a gate area at Tampa International Airport.

(Courtesy TPA Airport)

No one was charmed, however, by the report a passenger at Los Angeles International Airport posted last February about a woman who replied “They have people for that” when asked if she planned to clean up after her dog did its ‘business’ on the airport floor.

Yet both stories are examples of a wide range of animal-related incidents that are forcing airports to expend extra resources and causing them to rethink policies governing animals in the terminals.

In the Tampa airport puppy case, cute became controversy when animal rights advocates and people with certified service animals began questioning if the vested dogs were legitimate service animals and asking why a very pregnant dog – be it a certified service animal, emotional support animal or pet – had been allowed to fly so close to its due date.

TPA officials point out that airports have no say over the animals that airlines allow on board.

“We were just there to help with the situation and are happy the puppies were delivered safely,” said TPA spokeswoman Emily Nipps.

Tampa International Airport hasn’t yet tallied up its exact costs for having paramedics, operations, communications and maintenance staff spend several hours attending to Eleanor Rigby and her new puppies during the airport delivery, “But having paramedics assisting a dog in labor could have potentially impacted a medical emergency on another side of the airport,” said Nipps.

Cleaning up: the rules and the messes 

As had been widely reported, airlines have seen a sharp rise in the number of animals traveling on planes. Some are ticketed pets, but many are pets that have been flying for free thanks to loopholes in rules governing the transport of emotional or psychiatric support animals.

American Airlines reported a 40% increase in the number of service and emotional support animals on flights between 2016 and 2017. United Airlines cited a 75% increase year over year.

Like airlines, airports have had to make accommodations for all the extra animals and, like airlines, airports have been logging increased instances of pets and emotional support animals that are untrained, unruly and dangerous to others in the terminals.

“We find them making messes on the airport carpet, interfering with the airport’s working dogs and, on occasion, biting other dogs or passengers,” said Kama Simonds, spokeswoman for Portland International Airport.

Last December, a 5-year old girl ended up in the hospital after being bit in the face by an uncrated dog waiting for a flight with its owner at Portland International Airport. And a local TV station filming for a report on dog issues at PDX caught a schnauzer in the act of peeing on the airport’s brand new $13 million carpet.

Many airports hope revised policies for flying with emotional support animals recently rolled out by American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United and others will cut down on the number of animals in airport terminals.

“The way we see it, if the airlines put more specific and stricter guidelines in place to manage the issue, it will take care of the problem in the airport too,” said TPA’s Emily Nipps, “So we support the airlines in tightening up the policies.”

For its part, Airports Council International-North America, the membership organization which represents and advises most U.S. airports, is urging the Department of Transportation to clarify its rules.

Currently, there’s confusion for both passengers and airports because airlines are covered by the Air Carrier Access Act, which recognizes emotional support animals, while airports are covered by a different act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which does not recognize emotional support animals.

“We want DOT to clearly articulate that airports are within their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to require anyone bringing an emotional support animal through an airport terminal to house those animals in carriers, so they don’t interfere with other passengers, employees, staff or other animals including service animals and TSA and police canine units,” said Thomas Devine, ACI-NA’s general counsel.

DOT is currently taking comments through July 9 on proposed rulemaking related to traveling by air with service animals and ACI-NA will join the public and other industry groups in filing comments.

But at least one airport is not waiting for DOT to get around to making its final ruling.

After consulting with other airports, including San Francisco International, Detroit Metropolitan and Fairbanks International Airport, Portland International Airport plans to issue new rules aimed at clearly defining the different categories of traveling animals—pets, emotional support animals and service animals—and clarifying how the airport expects travelers to care for these animals while in the terminal.

“We see many people bring their pets when meeting and greeting people in the terminal. That’s a no-no,” said PDX spokesperson Kama Simonds, “Pets should not be at the airport unless they are traveling or being shipped.”

The new PDX rules will remind travelers that, like pets, the airport requires emotional support animals heading for airplanes to be in carriers while in the terminal. If too large for a carrier, those emotional support animals must be kept on short leashes.

And if a traveler’s animal urinates or defecates on the floor at PDX, the new rules will require an owner to remain at the site until someone from the janitorial staff arrives.

During July, airport operations staff at PDX will start spreading the word about the new rules. Come August, though, warnings and citations for bad dogs could be issued, with possible fines of up to $250.

Airports are not islands: there are cities out there

While airports are indeed unique, intriguing  – and sometimes frustrating – places all their own, they don’t exist in vacuums. Travelers have to get to them and from them.

The film below explores the relationship between the city and its airports; in this case New York City and its multiple airports.

The film was created on the occasion of the AERIAL FUTURES: Urban Constellations think tank in New York City, and explores ways we might improve air travel and urban life by better connecting cities and airports.

 

 

TSA’s Week in Review is dynamite

Each week the Transporation Security Administration shares a tally of the firearms its officers find at airport checkpoints.

I find that list both fasciniating and frightening.

From June 4 through 10, for example, 78 firearms were found in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints around the country.

Of those 78 firearms, 61 were loaded and 25 had a round chambered.

Alarming? Yes. A record? Not at all.

The guns are scary, but so too are the other prohibited items that TSA tells us travelers try to take on board with them.

For example, last week’s ‘catch’ included the replica Improvised Explosive Device (IED) pictured above that was found in a traveler’s carry-on bag at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

It looks like it could be real and TSA reports that after finding this item, the checkpoint was closed down for almost 20 minutes before the Chicago Police Bomb Squad was able to respond and clear the item.

Most people found with firearms in their carryon bags tells the authorities that they just ‘forgot’ they had their guns in the bags they grabbed on the way to the airport. But that replica IED? What were they thinking???

Exchange leftover currency for Bitcoin at Schiphol Airport

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport says it is the first European airport to install Bitcoin ATMS that allow passengers to exchange leftover euros for Bitcoin or Ethereum.

The kiosks – located in Arrival Hall 2 and in the corridor to Departure Halls 1 and 2 – are on site for a six month trial and are part of the airport’s efforts to always be looking for ways to innovate and provide “optium” service to passengers, Tanja Dik, Schiphol’s director of Consumer Products & Services said in a statement, “With the Bitcoin ATM, we hope to provide a useful service to passengers by allowing them to easily exchange ‘local’ euros for the ‘global’ cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum. That can be beneficial if, for instance, it’s not possible to spend euros in their home country.”

 

Would you use this machine to get rid of euros or use them instead to buy something fun in Schiphol shops selling cheese, tulip bulbs and other fun souvenirs of your visit?

This summer everyone may be at the airport

The Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the busy summer travel season and it looks like a lot of people will be spending a lot of time in airports.

According to the trade group Airlines for America (A4A), a record 246.1 million passengers — an average of 2.68 million per day — are expected to travel on U.S. airlines between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2018.

That number is up 3.7 percent from last year’s record of 237.3 million passengers.

Below is the group’s handy infographic that explains what’s in store.

A4A’s tally doesn’t include the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but if you’re headed to the airport this weekend keep in mind that security checkpoint lines are apt to be longer than usual (I’ve gotten a couple of  alerts from my my airline already, which makes me a bit nervous) with many kids and out-of-practice travelers in the mix.

As always, arrive early and pack your patience.